bdnews | Wed, Feb 4th, 2009
No ’secret deals’ being made: Faruq
Dhaka, Feb 4 (bdnews24.com) - The government will not sign any "secret deal" with any country without a transparent decision from parliament, commerce minister Faruq Khan said on Wednesday.
"The ongoing discussions on a possible TIFA with the USA and a likely transit accord with India will be tabled in parliament and drafts will be prepared with the help of highest-level experts," clarified the minister.
"The draft agreements will be first placed before the cabinet for scrutiny," Faruq told reporters after a high-level meeting on WTO issues at his office.
"But it is for the parliament to decide whether or not to sign the two deals on consideration of the country’s economic benefits," he said.
Asked if the contents of the agreements would be made public before signing, he said, "There will be no secret deal with any country and drafts will be published in the media."
The commerce minister said, "The two issues (TIFA and transit) are highly delicate and decisions have to be taken in the light of the internal political situation."
Faruq was quoted by the state-run BSS news agency as telling a monthly meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) on Tuesday that the proposed ’Trade and Investment Framework Agreement’ with the US and transit with India were awaiting cabinet scrutiny.
"The cabinet will take decisions on the issues considering whether these will serve the best interests of people or not," the minister was quoted as saying, which raised much media speculation the following day.
LDC interests in WTO negotiations
On Wednesday’s meeting on WTO negotiations, the commerce minister said, "The least developed countries including Bangladesh must be united in bargaining with the developed nations for their interests."
"’Aid for trade’ must be made effective to realise benefits from richer nations."
He added, "Conflicts between LDCs hamper ways to reap benefits from the developed nations. There must be accord on these issues between poorer nations."
With foreign minister Dipu Moni in Geneva, Bangladesh-chair of the LDC Group of Nations-has again urged WTO to guarantee duty-free quota-free market access for the group.
"Foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni urged that the current round of WTO negotiations must ensure the long pending duty-free quota-free market access for the least developed countries (LDCs)," said a statement issued Tuesday by Bangladesh’s permanent mission in Geneva.
The foreign minister, in talks with WTO director general Pascal Lamy, stressed the need for an early outcome of the negotiations specifically addressing the concerns of the LDCs.
The minister emphasised the special priority for the LDCs under trade in services negotiations.
Dipu Moni was in Geneva for the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh at the UN Human Rights Council.
Wednesday’s commerce ministry meeting also included commerce secretary Firoz Ahmed, International Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mahbubur Rahman, BGMEA president Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez, BKMEA president Fazlul Huq and Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute chairman and Dhaka University economics professor MA Taslim among others.